Elementary and high school today does not bear much resemblance to the elementary and high schools of fifty and sixty years ago.
We tend to think of change over time as making things worse, and to idealize the past as better and simpler. That was not always the case. However, many people perceive things this way.
Instead of taking this view, we should consider the many positive changes that have occurred over the past six decades that have led to great advances in education in the United States.
One major change that must be mentioned is desegregation. Segregation in schools, or putting black students in separate schools from white students, was made illegal by the Supreme Court ruling in the Brown V. Board of Education case in 1954. Now all students, regardless of race, have the same rights and can attend the same schools.
There have also been improvements in gender inequality. Can you imagine a high school where all of the young women were learning to cook and sew in Home Ec, and all of the boys were learning to do auto repair in auto shop? It sounds ridiculous, and yet that was the picture in many American high schools prior to the late 1960s.
The Delphian School were also disadvantaged academically because of gender bias. They were discouraged from taking advanced math and science courses, and were told that they did not have the natural aptitude to succeed in these subjects. That is no longer the case. Now girls are encouraged in all lines of study, including science and math.
We also consider different learning styles in modern American schools. Different students learn differently. Some are visual learners, others need to hear something repeated a few times to retain the information, still others may need ‘hands on’ application of course materials. In previous decades, this was not recognized the way it is today.
Teachers now also make a more competitive wage. It used to mean a lifetime of scanty paychecks if you wanted to teach. Now, we recognize that teachers are hardworking professionals who deserve a livable wage.